Friday, February 9, 2024

Ukraine correspondences

Postcrossing has allowed me to connect with many wonderful people from Ukraine over the years. But life changed drastically for many Ukrainians two years ago this month, when Vladimir Putin's murderous Russian forces invaded the sovereign European nation of Ukraine. Many Ukrainian citizens have fled the fighting and become refugees. Whether they are still in the country or not, their futures remain uncertain while the war rages. (And that uncertainty is certainly heightened by Congress failing in recent months to provide the Ukrainian government with the assistance it needs to counter the Russian invasion.)

In recent days I've received a handful of correspondence reminding me of the humans who are affected every hour of every day by this war. 

1. I received the above postcard a few days ago. The text covers the entire back of the card. It states:
"Hello Chris! I'm alive. :) I deeply appreciate your thoughtful card, which brought joy to my life and gratitude for your support of Ukraine. Though I received it on 25th of April, I'm sending this in December 2023 to add a touch of Christmas cheer. The image of a Ukrainian tractor pulling a russian tank is a real story, you can Goolgl it. The inscription means 'Good evening, we are from Ukraine.' Now it's popular phrase. russia is still bombing my country and killing Ukrainians I keep waking up from explosions and listening to missiles and drones shooting down. But we believe in our victory. :) Million times thank you for your card." 
The postcard is unsigned.

2. In the meantime, I requested a new random Postcrossing user to send a postcard to this week, and I happened to receive the address of Ukrainian woman who is now living in Poland with her dog (Gerda) and cat (Murka). It's not clear from her profile whether she moved to Poland before the Russian invasion, or fled there during the past two years to escape the violence. Poland has taken in the most Ukrainian refugees — more than 1.6 million through last July. This Postcrossing member is seeking cards of koalas, owls, fairies, unicorns, Harry Potter and Avatar, so I'll do my best to send some good cheer her way.

3. Through Postcrossing, a Ukrainian and I became pen pals in the spring of 2021, exchanging postcards and letters often. She was (fortuitously?) on vacation in another country when the invasion began two years ago and has been essentially displaced ever since, trying to find a potential home, and perhaps new employment, elsewhere in the world. She's spent time in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and then Canada for a long stint in 2023. Recently, she had an opportunity to visit loved ones in and around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. This is part of what she emailed me about the experience:
"And so, here I am — in the freezing, snowy and uncalm city of Kyiv. The atmosphere at the moment is much worse than it was in April when I visited last time. The mobilization policy has been toughened — local authorities catch males literally everywhere in the city and serve them a summons to join the Armed forces of Ukraine. All my male friends, who don't want to find themselves at the war front, panic and not go out much. So, for the last week, I only met with my two female friends. I also visited my company's new office in Kyiv, but it was so short — after the first two hours of working, we received a message asking everyone to go home immediately due to the upcoming military recruitment centre raid in that district. So, as you can see, it's very turbulent. I feel sorry for young men who don't want to participate in the war. I think that war is awful, and even when the country is at war, it doesn't mean that every single man can physically and mentally participate in it. ... So many professionals support Ukraine in another way. And it's so sad that Ukraine doesn't have enough resources and support to win the war, so it ends up using such dirty methods as catching males on the streets. None will be a good soldier by force. So, overall, everything is sad here. And I wish it to end soon (but surely it won't)." 
4. Finally, on February 2, I received this email notification that a Postcrossing card I sent to another Ukrainian on November 26 had finally arrived after more than two months:
"Hello Chris!! Greetings from KYIV!
"Thank you so much for your postcard! Too bad you didn't see my daughter's eyes! When she saw that a letter had arrived for her — she was shocked! It was so sweet and so precious. I took the letter while she was at school and did not open it. When we were leaving school, I said that something special was waiting for her. She was so happy!!!
You have beautiful cats and a big heart. After all, only a person with a big heart can love animals so much :)
"Many thanks to you and your family! I wish you only the best!
"P.S All Ukrainians are infinitely grateful to America! Honestly, it's only thanks to patriot systems that my daughter can sleep in her own bed and not in a bomb shelter.
"From Kyiv with big love!” 

Excuse me, but now I need to go and write more correspondence. 

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Hans Holzer's "The Psychic World of Plants"

Here's another in an occasional series about the more obscure paperbacks penned by parapsychologist and ghost hunter Hans Holzer. The most recent post before this examined Window to the Past: Exploring History Through ESP. There's almost nothing on the internet about today's book, so this is a chance to get some information out there for posterity.

  • Title: The Psychic World of Plants
  • Additional cover text: Discover what your plants are thinking in this fascinating revelation
  • Author: Hans Holzer (1920-2009)
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Bonkers questions posed on the back cover: Does a carrot scream when it's uprooted? Do plants feel pain? fear? love? Can they communicate emotions? How do you listen to a plant? How do they feel about being eaten?
  • Publication date: September 1975
  • Publisher: Pyramid Books (V3695)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 125
  • Cover price: $1.25 (the equivalent of about $7.20 today)
  • Chapter titles: It's a Plant's World; How People and Plants Relate to Each Other; Science Looks at Plant Communication; Plants in Your Life; A Life with Plants: How to Deal with Your Rooted Friends; and The Do's and Don't of Eating Plants.
  • First sentences: "When a book like Peter Tompkins' and Christopher Bird's The Secret Life of Plants gets on the best-seller list, it is certainly news. It is further news when a total of seven or eight books devoted to the investigation of relationships between human beings and plants are suddenly popping up all over the publishing scene. There is no doubt about it, what goes on in a plant's heart is of great concern to an increasing number of human beings."
  • Last sentence: "After all, where would we all be without plants?"
  • Highlights from "How People and Plants Relate to Each Other": Holzer buys a "lovely pinkish-red bougainvillea" from Futterman's and decides to have some psychic friends — Ethel Johnson Meyers, Ingrid Beckman and Patricia Allen Bott  — see what vibes they can get from various houseplants. Ingrid finds love, tranquility, laziness and warmth in the vibrations of various plants, and attempts to communicate with some of them. Patricia talks about her conversations with her geranium, which is afraid of her cat. 
  • Highlights from "Science Looks at Plant Communication": Much of this chapter is just Holzer repeating material from Tompkins' and Bird's The Secret Life of Plants. It's pretty clear that this short book was, in part, an attempt to capitalize on the 1970s plant craze. The chapter then moves on to the topics of auras and energy fields. (We have, of course, been able to apply scientific methods and come a long way in our understanding of actual plant communications since these parapsychology days of the 1970s.)
  • Highlights from "Plants in Your Life": Here's a fun sentence: "Nevertheless, the possibility of utilizing the ability of plants to foresee things, to sense danger, and to warn man of its approach has led researcher [Cleve] Backster to the somewhat outrageous suggestion that plants be used in jungle warfare to warn of approaching enemies." The chapter then pivots into the sex life of plants, how certain plants stimulate sexual responses in humans and the use of plants in religious ceremonies. Witchcraft comes up, of course, because this is Hans Holzer. 
  • Highlights from "A Life with Plants: How to Deal with Your Rooted Friends": This chapter starts by drawing material from Jerry Baker's early 1970s book Plants are Like People. It's basically a bunch of gardening tips without much from the realm of parapsychology beyond "consider your plants' feelings" and "talk to your plants." There's a rundown of which plants are best-suited to each Zodiac symbol. 
  • Highlights from "The Do's and Don't of Eating Plants": This chapter allows Holzer to make a callback to his 1973 Pyramid paperback The Vegetarian Way of Life. Holzer notes: "One of the commonest arguments I hear from time to time against my being a vegetarian is that I kill plants, living beings, and that there really isn't any difference between destroying plant life and taking animal life." Holzer doesn't do his defense any favors by stating that plants have liquids that are similar to blood and that it has been "proven" that they feel pain. But he says we can treat plant food compassionately: "Breaking plants by hand without properly cutting them, mutilating them in any way while they are still connected to the root, destroying plants you do not need for food are all taboos that should be observed. ... Food plants should not be taken from the soil in the middle of the day but either at sunup or sundown. ... Do not leave plants [that have been harvested] lying around for long periods, allowing them to die slowly." Holzer also has strong opinions about soil additives to help plants' growth: "Neither chemical fertilizer not manure is the asnwer to healthy plants. Compost, that is, the natural remnants of decomposing leaves, flowers, and other products found in nature, is not only nonpoisonous but highly useful in stimulating soil conservation." To add a touch of the paranormal to the chapter, Holzer mentions that fresh fruit and mushrooms are excellent for boosting psychic perception. (No, not those kind of mushrooms.)
That's it. There are no reviews or discussions of this book on the internet, so hopefully this post will become the go-to resource for all those seeking Holzer's thoughts on plants and the supernatural. 
That's Oliver, whose mother, Mamacita, left him (and his four siblings) at our back door 
one morning last August when he was about 4 weeks old. 
Later, we were able to get Mamacita (a feral cat) spayed, which will make 
her life far better and spare us from future surprise kittens.